Summary: Lyrics carry the meaning of the song. The more you get into them, the more you get out of the song.
Today I exchanged sound files with a friend in California. He and I jammed together a lot back in the day and now that there’s a good distance between us, it’s especially good to keep in touch.
Back when we were in college, there was a singer/songwriter by the name Damien Rice, who’s first album, “O,” is perhaps one of my fav’s of all time. “O” contains a song called “Cannonball,” which was, among our group of friends, like “Stairway to Heaven:” a song that anyone who knew anything about guitar had to play.
On a whim, I recently recorded a version of the song on my iPhone and sent it to him. He sent me back some notes and I recorded another version. Then, another. Then, another. As I kept playing the song, the chord structures faded away and I began concentrating on the lyrics alone.
I am not the best vocalist, so it’s easy for me to hide behind melody. However, it was pointed out to me that even the best band cannot hide a bad vocalist forever. This is so true, especially when many songs employ fairly basic chord structures: G… D… C…A…. blah, blah, blah. Therefore for anyone to rest their hat on instruments alone is to subject an audience to mindless, music repetition. The solution: Put yourself out there, and let the chips fall where they may.
That’s exactly what I began doing. Does this produce the best music ever written? Not necessarily. But, I found that it, at the very least, got me engaging with the lyrics I was singing and I remembered that these words were written for a reason. Yes, melody can amplify, even redirect, the mood conveyed in the words, but they do not in of themselves contain meaning. As I mused on what I was singing while I was singing it, I found engaging with the song. I felt as if I were connecting to Mr. Rice over space and time, understanding him, appreciating him. It was actually kind of beautiful.
All that to say, if you are a vocalist, singer/songwriter, whatever, let your voice be heard! After all, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve listened a song by signed musicians and said, “wow! That song sounded awesome, but I have no clue what they were saying.”
Be proud of your song; honor the intentionality of it; and rock on, my brothers and sisters in the Key of Awesome.
P. S. I’ve attached a demo track of the aforementioned song for you to enjoy- and laugh at it, if you so desire. Also, feel free to jump over onto iTunes and check out “O” in its entirety. It’s an experience you won’t forget!
Blessings to you in Christ,